What Seasoned PR Professionals Want You To Know When Starting Your PR Career

We are faced with a multitude of choices in our career journeys. If you’re anything like me, you were relieved and excited when the pieces fell into place and you decided what your dream career would be. But that relief was short-lived when you graduated college and realized that getting a first job that’s related to your career goals is not as easy as you thought it would be.

Things seem so simple when you are inside the structured environment of your university, but once you leave that, you must figure out the answer to the dreaded question: “What’s next?” Trying to break into a career on your own is intimidating, and it’s difficult to know what steps you need to be taking to make progress. But the good news is, there are plenty of things that you can be doing now to make yourself a valuable candidate for your dream job in public relations.

I interviewed 5 seasoned PR professionals who are members of PRSA’s College of Fellows to see what their advice is to those of us who are just starting our PR career journey. They provided wonderful insights that were so helpful and encouraging.

Here are the 6 tips to be successful at the start of your PR career:

1. Be Curious

The most common theme that came up in the interviews was the idea that you must be curious to be successful in the public relations industry. The concept of curiosity comes into play with public relations for several reasons. PR is a job that requires the ability to be dynamic and flexible in your approach. According to the seasoned professionals I interviewed, one important aspect of this is being a life-long
learner.

Katrina Schwarz, APR, Fellow PRSA explained, “You must be willing to put yourself out there and learn, even if it means putting in extra time and effort to get done what needs to get done.”

Dr. Joe Trahan, APR, Fellow PRSA said, “You must have a drive to be the very best, be open to challenges and to take on responsibilities, even if they are not in your specific area.”

Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA articulated how important it is to continue your development. She explained, “Your development doesn’t have to necessarily mean getting another degree. It could also be placing a value on growing your skillset. Show an interest in bettering yourself, and you show a willingness to learn.”

Gerry Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA said, “Have big ears, listen well! This is the key to building knowledge and ability.”

2. Read

A recurring piece of advice from the pros was to be an active reader. I thought this was especially interesting because it’s not something that is commonly associated with professional development, but hearing the interviewees discuss it made me think that it should be! Reading does wonders for training up your mind and keeping you sharp.

Gerry explained, “The more you read, the better you write. Reading trains your brain to be able to write well, simply and quickly; and being able to write is your first key to success in your first PR job.” We all know how crucial it is to be an excellent writer if you want to be successful in public relations, and reading is an amazing way to maintain and grow your creativity and writing abilities.

In addition to this benefit, reading also provides valuable insight that you can use to stay up to date in your industry. Gerry said, “Think about what industry you want to work in and read as much as you can about that. Become a jack of all trades based on what your interests are. Explore blogs on what you want to do, and search PR blogs made by people who are doing what you want to be doing.”

3. Be a Self-Starter

The advice to be a self-starter seems to be everywhere, but what does it mean? A self-starter, according to the pros I interviewed, is all about taking initiative and finding creative ways to find solutions.

Have you been told that you don’t have enough experience to get that job you applied for? Don’t let frustration get the best of you. Be creative and find a way to get that experience. Dr. Joe advised that students can gain experience by reaching out to nonprofits. You can volunteer to write for them and end up with some stellar writing samples and valuable experience to talk about in your next interview.

Are you unhappy with your current job? Make the most out of what you have. Dianne said, “Remember that you may not love your first job, and that’s okay. Your first job is what you make it. If it’s not the perfect job, do what you can to make it the perfect job for now, and try to stay there for two years. You may have to work in opportunities you don’t love, but you can still be an asset to them and grow in the process.”

Being a self-starter is an attitude that employers can sense from you. When asked what she looks for in job candidates, Dianne said, “I assume they have training in writing/communication. I hire for attitude; you can’t teach that. You must always be curious, always interested in what’s going on beyond the surface level. You must show a company what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.”

4. Love Your Client

Kathy Hubbell said that her first mentor taught her the importance of loving your client. Working in public relations means you are constantly absorbing the values and stories of other people and companies. You must absorb them and resonate with them in order to successfully share their story with their audience in a meaningful way. Therefore, you must be passionate about the stories that you are telling. Otherwise, you will not compel any audience.

Kathy advised that new pros be careful when choosing who to work for. She said, “It is important to choose your company as carefully as they choose you. In PR, we promote a company’s values and ethics. If they don’t match yours, you’ll do a terrible job and you’ll be miserable.”

Dianne explained that she had learned something similar in her job. “When you work to make me look good, and I work to make you look good, it benefits everyone!”

5. Be Active

Every single pro who was interviewed discussed the importance of being active in professional organizations and in networking — especially new pros.

When asked what people can do to prepare themselves for success in getting their first PR job, Kathy noted, “Have broad contacts and make yourself available to other people. You can do this in PRSA by attending webinars, online chats — the more the better! PRSA is a non-competitive organization, which means you can search the directory and find someone to ask for advice. As long as it’s not a conflict of interest, they’ll help.”

When asked if there was something that she wished she’d known when starting her career in PR, Katrina said, “I was a late bloomer in taking advantage of networking groups. Get out there and network as soon as possible. Building relationships is something you should start early on.”

Gerry emphasized his belief that having a board of mentors is crucial to your professional development. He said, “it’s good to have a mentor, but it’s better to have a board of them. Find people who are doing what you want to do, get to know them, strike up a conversation with them. Don’t limit yourself to one person, different people can bring different perspectives.”

6. Know Your Value and Be Able to Communicate It

I think Gerry said it best: “KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.” We’ve heard this phrase in relation to preparation for interviews, and I think it is especially applicable for landing a position in public relations. You must show that you can communicate your value to your employer, because if you can’t market yourself, how would you be able to market the company?

When asked what he looks for in candidates, Gerry said, “I look for someone who can communicate very succinctly on what values they could bring to an employer. This translates to knowing your value so you can communicate it to them. A candidate is memorable when they can do this. Your resume must also communicate your value.” He added that taking the time to create and practice your 30-second elevator speech is a key to communicating your value to an employer.

Breaking into a new career is not always easy, but is definitely possible. The main takeaway that I got from hearing the advice from these seasoned pros is that we have more control over our career than we may think. It is easy to feel like we must follow a set path to success that is built for us by an employer or professor. And while it is true that development through education and your job experiences is highly important, we can’t forget that the most crucial key to success is the attitude we have and the growth we create on our own.

Being an asset to a company is a skill that we must develop within ourselves. Developing yourself professionally and personally takes dedication, motivation, and creativity. Development is the way to make yourself stand out from everyone else, and it is the way to maximize the value you can bring to an employer — and to yourself.

A New Pro’s Never-Ending To-Do List

I have a never-ending to-do list.

It’s not just work items on that list. It’s things for my multiple side hustles, it’s household chores, it’s taking care of an 18-year-old cat with kidney disease, it’s making sure I get in a workout — and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming.

And I’m not the only one in this situation.

As new professionals, we constantly feel like we have to prove ourselves. We are the new ones in the office who don’t want to look like the stereotypical millennial that doesn’t put in the hard work (disclaimer: I have never once seen this stereotype in action). These misperceptions often make us work harder, but our generation also recognizes the need for a work/life balance.

So what is a new pro with a never-ending list to do? If you’re in the same situation, I’ve compiled three best tips for dealing with your own to-do list that doesn’t ever seem to end.

Prioritize

Priority lists constantly change; they aren’t static. One week, you may realize that you need to prioritize one side-hustle over another. Another week, household chores may jump to the top. After that, maybe you have to put your main job as the priority (plus some self-care to deal with those long hours). Just stay organized and keep an open mind.

Power Through

Even if you’re careful to prioritize, there are times when you just have to power through to really get your list under control. Things like a lack of motivation or an especially busy week can double your work. To help you get through it, treat yourself to an activity you enjoy afterward to really power through.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes, we’re just too close to things to see them clearly. Try taking a step back and reminding yourself that it’s okay to not get every single item checked off. Regardless of how productive your day, week, or month was, it’s never a bad time to take a break. Spend a quiet Sunday morning with a cup of coffee, or curl up with that book you’ve been dying to read. It’s actually good for your mental health.

Overall, to-do lists are a great and wonderful tool for keeping your life on track, but don’t get so caught up by them that you end up overwhelmed. Consult your list, but allow for spontaneity. And hey, if that means an item doesn’t get checked off, that’s okay.

 

 

3 International Communications Lessons from a New Pro

Somehow, I was blessed to secure a global marketing communications role right out of college (okay, I worked at Panera for a few months beforehand, but, hey, it worked out). After being immersed in the literal world of communications for a few years, here are three things I learned as an international communicator.

  1. Non-traditional hours: the good and the bad

Whether it’s a call with China at 9pm (your time) or a 4am webinar with the Netherlands, some days and weeks will bring the strangest hours you’ve ever worked. There are plenty of pros to this weirdness, namely the excitement and flexibility that come with a non-traditional schedule. Working the nine to five grind can get repetitive; it’s nice to shake things up a little. Plus there’s a satisfying sense of intrigue when you can say you started the day by meeting with Europe. But be warned: while you may feel like 007 when you’re first starting out, you may also learn just how unrealistic Mr. Bond’s lifestyle is.

The obvious downers to odd hours include irregular sleep schedules, meetings at odd times, and a general lack of routine. The less obvious involve the quality and quantity of your work – tiredness and an unstable schedule can easily affect your productivity.

In addition to how you handle a non-traditional work schedule, be wary of your employers’ approach. Make sure any odd hours you log taking calls or traveling are accounted for as what they are – work time. If you’re putting in 40 hours at the office AND taking early morning calls or flying 20 hours in the same week, you might want to reevaluate your company’s culture around work-life balance. Having an international work schedule is fun and fine as long as it doesn’t quietly take over your personal time.

  1. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is here (and kind of a good idea)

Personal time is important, and so is personal information. That’s why the GDPR exists and came to be fully enforced last year. In case you aren’t familiar, the basic premise of GDPR requires a new level of transparency and consent for marketers using consumer data. For example, if a customer registers for a newsletter by submitting their email, GDPR mandates the email address can only be used to send the newsletter. Unless the consumer explicitly opts into other communications, their information can’t be used for other tactics. Many companies in the US have already adopted this trend of opting-in, but this has been an optional courtesy rather than a legal requirement.

You’re probably wondering: how could a policy that cuts communications be good for marketers? In my opinion, these regulations lead to a better understanding of our audiences. By requiring consent, the ball is placed in the audience’s court. A GDPR set-up could make consumers more transparent because an audience’s decision to opt in or out of certain communications could say more than vague email open rates or website impressions. Plus, marketers operating under these types of policies might be forced to think more outside the box to reach their targets, and innovation is never a bad thing.

Even if you don’t agree about these possible positives, I learned there’s a real potential for more consumer-focused restrictions like GDPR to come into play, worldwide. It’s an important topic for new pros to be aware of as we enter the workforce and adapt our educations to the real world.

  1. Listening + asking questions = the secret sauce for international comm’s success

In my experience, American marketers move fast and feel they must be on the “cutting edge” 24/7. The success and adaptability our country’s communicators may lead you to believe Americans are fairly middle-of-the-road on a global scale, meaning we can work with foreign teams without much difficulty. This is only partially true at best.

I know from experience. My limited international experience and the company’s English-only policy resulted in my underestimation the effect cultural barriers can have on your communication skills. For example, I learned:

  • Just because some countries seem similar, doesn’t mean they are. Our colleagues in Italy and Spain stressed extremely different pain points after we introduced a global campaign to each office. Only after meeting with them one-on-one and taking the time to listen did we understand we couldn’t put Europe into a single bucket when developing a strategy.
  • “Cutting edge” is a fluid, global adjective. When our Thai colleagues shared a “cutting edge” social media strategy involving anime cartoon characters and egg-related recipes, my boss and I ended the call worried about the effect these tactics would have on our global campaign. After another call to question them, the Thai office graciously shared some amazing social engagement stats. We were floored and immediately learned to put more trust into foreign, “cutting edge” ideas.

I highly recommend The Culture Map by Erin Meyer to anyone interested in a global role – this book contains great data and personal insights as the author paints an experienced picture of how the world communicates.

If you’d like to share any lessons not included in this post, please comment or reach out to me. I always love discussing this topic.

Craig TierneyCraig Tierney is the Content Specialist for Kenzie Academy, an Indianapolis-based coding school + tech apprenticeship startup. He’s also a freelance Content Marketer through his business With It Communications. Craig’s international experience comes from a past role as Global Marketing Communications Specialist in the agricultural industry. Website: https://craigtierney.com/

 

6 Tips For Your First PR Job

A college education in public relations is a fantastic resource, but it can’t cover everything. Here are a few tips as you begin your journey into public relations.

Pitching is everything
If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent time and effort perfecting your content creation and journalism skills. While these can make you a great asset to a team, keep in mind that the house of media relations is built upon a foundation of pitching. Identifying, writing, targeting and sending pitches are often core functions of entry-level PR jobs. Put time into developing your pitching skills— they’re often the clearest way to contribute value to your team. There are great books on the topic — I’m enjoying Ed Zitron’s “This is How You Pitch” right now.

Learn about your clients
In order to identify pitching angles, you need to understand your clients. I like to read anything I can get my hands on about the companies I work with, as this can allow me to see pitching ideas that haven’t occurred to anyone else.

Identify and track competitors
One of the most important nuances to learn about your clients is their competition. This gives you a frame of reference for the type of coverage you can seek and can alert you to journalists who might be interested in news from your clients.

Don’t be boring
Since your clients spend every day embedded deep in their verticals, they depend on you to help convey their ideas to people who may not live in their world. This means it’s crucial to find news within your clients’ larger stories. Journalists are incredibly busy and receive hundreds of emails each day. You’ll want to find a good story angle that is relevant to the writer you’re pitching and articulate your ideas clearly and succinctly.

Google News is your friend
Don’t underestimate Google News just because it’s available to everybody. Advanced monitoring and tracking tools can be great for media relations, but Google News is a great way to get a glimpse of trending topics and coverage based on simple search terms. It’s a great starting point for learning and establishing context.

Set up Google Alerts
When you’re working with clients, it’s important to keep tabs on their mentions and what’s happening in their industry. Google Alerts sends you emails when new items that match your specified keywords are added to Google’s massive index. Setting alerts for your clients’ names or keywords related to that client can help you stay informed. It’s also a good idea to set one up for your name.

Mike IncavoMike Incavo is an account manager and content creator at Houston cybersecurity firm Zintel PR. He attended Baylor University and is a member of the Houston PRSA chapter. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Three Ways to Get Involved With Your Local PRSA Chapter

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Graduation is around the corner and the job search is on! But what happens after you secure your first gig? It is important to stay involved in professional organizations like PRSA even after graduation for continued professional development and networking. Here are three ways that you can get involved in your local PRSA chapter:

  1. ALL ABOARD!

A great way to get involved with your local chapter is to join the board. This allows you to plan the best year yet for the local chapter. Whether you want to be the historian or happy hour coordinator (like me), you are in a space where you can contribute ideas on programming and network closely with like-minded individuals.

  1. Be Hands On

If you’re not ready to be a board member yet, volunteering is a great way to start getting involved. There are fundraising events, award ceremonies and networking mixers that need planning and support. Contact your local chapter to see how you can play a part.

  1. Show Up!

Beth Lamb, Chief Marketing Officer at Ronald McDonald House Fort Worth (TX) said “it can be very easy to get involved with your local chapter, and the easiest way is to simply attend chapter programming. Get to know your fellow members and leadership board through the various events. If you are ready to serve the chapter, ask. Boards always love to know who is ready and willing to fill committee chairs. If your schedule does not allow you to do more than attend programs, offer your ideas on luncheon topics or event programming.”

PRSA is a great way to enrich your professional life through networking and career development. “Plus, your involvement, no matter the level, is important to your growth and the growth of your local chapter,” said Lamb. Find your local chapter today at PRSA

By – Jade Fails

Jade Fails is a Baylor University public relations graduate. She is currently the Marketing Administrator at The Shops at Clearfork in Fort Worth, TX.